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The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a…

The Alchemy of Air: A Jewish Genius, a Doomed Tycoon, and the Scientific…

by Thomas Hager

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The beginning of the book, about the fertilizer industry in South America before Haber-Bosch, was really interesting. Things lag a bit in the middle then pick up again towards the end. Less a science book and more a history book, very little of the book is devoted to the actual development of the Haber-Bosch reaction. The focus is on how the process affected Haber, Bosch, Germany and the world. ( )
2 vote atiara | May 12, 2010 |
Like many critical scientific discoveries of our time – antibiotics, vaccinations, combustion engines – the ability to create fixed nitrogen from air is now a fact, a given. There is food on our table because someone, somewhere was able to grow it and most first world citizens give it little more thought. What Thomas Hager illustrates strikingly well in The Alchemy of Air is that it's only for an invention called the Haber-Bosch process that billions of people escaped famine and starvation 50 years ago.

The Alchemy of Air is the story of Fritz Haber & Carl Bosch – brilliant men whose drive and genius changed the world for billions. It's the story of ambition, loss, regret, and the butterfly effect of science. Even today, as we all benefit from Haber-Bosch, there are seen and unforeseen ramifications that continue to shape the world we live in.

Read The Alchemy of Air and I assure you you'll put the book down with a wildly different perspective on what it takes to put food on your family's table each day as well as the true costs of that food. ( )
2 vote saturn_reads | Sep 30, 2008 |
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Thomas Hagerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Verner, AdamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Ye instruments, ye surely jeer at me,

With handle, wheel and cogs and cylinder.

I stood beside the gate, ye were to be the key.

True, intricate your ward, but no bolts do ye stir.

Inscrutable upon a sunlit day,

Her veil will Nature never let you steal,

And what she will not to your mind reveal,

You will not wrest from her with levers and with screws.

--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust
For Lauren
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Creatures of the Air

This is the story of two men who invented a way to turn air into bread, built factories the size of small cities, made enormous fortunes, helped engineer the deaths of millions of people, and saved the lives of billions more.
The prophecy was made in the fall of 1898, in a music hall in Bristol, England, by a thin man with a graying, neatly trimmed beard and a mustache waxed  to alarmingly long, needlelike points.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307351793, Paperback)

Tragic genius, cutting-edge science, and the discovery that changed billions of lives–including your own.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, humanity was facing global disaster: Mass starvation was about to become a reality. A call went out to the world’s scientists to find a solution.

This is the story of the two men who found it: brilliant, self-important Fritz Haber and reclusive, alcoholic Carl Bosch. Together they discovered a way to make bread out of air, built city-sized factories, and saved millions of lives.

But their epochal triumph came at a price we are still paying. The Haber-Bosch process was also used to make the gunpowder and explosives that killed millions during the two world wars. Both men were vilified during their lives; both, disillusioned and disgraced, died tragically.

The Alchemy of Air is the extraordinary, previously untold story of a discovery that changed the way we grow food and the way we make war–and that promises to continue shaping our lives in fundamental and dramatic ways.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:48 -0400)

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The extraordinary, previously untold story of two master scientists, enormously gifted, fatally flawed men who found the solution to global starvation. Together they discovered a way to make bread out of air, built city-sized factories, controlled world markets, and saved millions of lives. Their invention continues to feed us today; without it, more than two billion people would starve.… (more)

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